Endometriosis is a painful condition that affects roughly 10% (190 million) of women and people born with a uterus globally, causing both physical and psychological discomfort. Although the exact cause is unknown, it occurs when tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus grows outside of it. However, this is a whole body disease.
This condition can severely impact the quality of life and cause infertility, so it’s important to know the symptoms. It can be difficult to diagnose endometriosis because there are a variety of endometriosis symptoms and every person may not exhibit all (or even any) of them. In this blog, we will explore seven possible signs of endometriosis you should know about.
7 Signs That You May Have Endometriosis
1. Severe Menstrual Cramps
During menstruation, the endometrium-like tissue responds to changes in hormone levels, which can cause severe menstrual cramps. It is normal to have mild to moderate discomfort from cramps during your period, but extremely painful and debilitating cramps are probably a sign that something more is going on.
With endometriosis, menstrual cramps can also sometimes get progressively worse over time. If you regularly suffer from severe menstrual cramps that are bad enough to prevent you from engaging in your normal activities, speak to your doctor.
2. Heavy Menstrual Bleeding
The duration and flow of an average menstrual period are different for every menstruator, so it can be tricky to know what is normal. If you have more frequent or longer-lasting periods with heavy flow, it may be a sign of endometriosis.
Using a menstrual cycle chart to track your menstruation can be very helpful for tracking whether your bleeding is lasting longer than seven days. Other signs that your period is heavier than normal are soaking a pad or tampon in an hour or less, very large blood clots, and very painful cramps.
3. Chronic Pelvic Pain
Pelvic pain is the most common endometriosis symptom. Endometriosis causes tissue that should be limited to the inside of the uterus to grow outside of it, most often in the pelvis. The growth of this tissue leads to chronic inflammation which can cause scar tissue in the form of fibrosis or adhesions in the pelvic area.
This scar tissue can result in chronic pelvic pain that can even be felt in the lower back or as endometriosis thigh pain. If you often experience pelvic pain even when you are not menstruating, see your doctor.
4. Pain During Sexual Intercourse
Pain during sexual intercourse is not normal. Vaginal penetration and movements during sex can pull and stretch endometrial tissue that has grown around the vaginal area. Some people report feeling a sharp, jabbing pain while others describe it as a deep ache. The degree of pain can range from mild to severe and may be felt during sex and up to 48 hours afterwards. If you find sex painful, it’s time to talk to your healthcare provider.
5. Digestive Issues or Pain During Bowel Movements
In cases of endometriosis in which endometrium-like tissue has grown in and around the bowels, rectum, or elsewhere in the abdomen, painful bowel movements may occur. Lesions or inflammation of this tissue may manifest as either constipation or diarrhea. It may make pooping painful. Scientifically known as proctalgia fugax from endometriosis, this severe shooting pain can be thought of as endometriosis pain in the anus. In rare cases, you may also notice blood in your stool or urine.
There are many ways that endometriosis can impact fertility. If you have been trying to get pregnant for a long period of time and have not succeeded, infertility due to endometriosis could be the reason. This can be the result of endometrium-like tissue or scar tissue forming on the fallopian tubes or ovaries, distortion and inflammation of the pelvic anatomy, changes in immunity, and more.
Multiple studies have shown that fatigue is a common symptom in people suffering from endometriosis, and it can take a considerable toll on the quality of life. Fatigue as a symptom of endometriosis is also associated with insomnia, depression, pain, and occupational stress. Some people with endometriosis describe their fatigue as feeling like they’ve been tranquillized and feeling too tired to carry out their normal activities.
When to Speak to a Doctor About Diagnosing Endometriosis
If you are experiencing one or more of the above symptoms, it’s essential to speak with your doctor. If you diagnose endometriosis early enough, you can manage the symptoms more effectively through either medication or surgery. Endometriosis diagnosis requires a laparoscopy to confirm the presence of endometriosis tissue, but the first step to advocating for yourself is knowing what to look out for.
Now that you know what the symptoms are, you’re equipped to look out for things that may help diagnose endometriosis so you can get the support you need to manage this condition and live your life to the fullest. Share what you know with your friends and family to spread awareness about endometriosis and narrow the gender pain gap!
Editor: Lanna Last & Thomas Sauls
Scientifically Reviewed By: Mali Meibod
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